Baker ends its season with a 27-7 record, while Bethel improves to 23-10 on the year and will take on the winner of the No. 2 Freed-Hardeman vs. No. 15 Lewis and Clark State game on Saturday at 2 p.m. (EST) in the national quarterfinals. It marks the first-ever appearance in the round of eight for Bethel.
Baker started hot, leading for the first 10 minutes by as many as eight, before the game turned into a back-and-forth battle. The first half alone featured three lead changes, with Bethel heading to the locker room up one, 29-28.
The beginning of the second half featured two more lead changes, before Bethel took the lead for good with 17 minutes remaining. The Lady Wildcats would lead by as many as 11, before Baker closed the gap to three with 13 seconds to go.
Junior guard Porshia Blue hit the first of two free throws for the Lady Wildcats to give Bethel a two-possession lead, and a lay-in by junior forward Tayla Foster off the second missed free throw sealed the game for Bethel.
Sophomore guard Jackliann Street, who had the rebound to set up Foster's late basket, lead all scorers with 27 points. Two of Street's Bethel teammates recorded double-doubles in the contest: Foster (21 points, 12 rebounds) and senior forward Porsha Harris (18 points, 15 rebounds).
Heart of America Athletic Conference Player of the Year, BriAnna Garza led the way for Baker with 25 points, while sophomore center Macy Wallisch grabbed 12 rebounds and added 12 points for her fourth double-double of the season.
Friday's loss also ended the career of three Wildcats, as Garza, Shea Shoemaker and Ciarra Washington will saw their final game in Baker uniform.
Shoemaker scored 11 points of 5-of-11 shooting and Kyrstie Ehm had nine points for the 'Cats.
Baker shot better from the field (40.6 percent, 26-of-64) and from 3-point range (36.8 percent, 7-of-19) than Bethel (36.6 percent, 26-of-71) (16.7 percent, 3-of-18), but Bethel won the battle of the boards (49-48) and shot well from the free throw line (67.6 percent, 23-of-34) to seal the victory.